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Volvo 66 and CVT Information



A selection of reports taken from back-issues of the Club's magazine, 'Volvo Driver'.

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Volvo 66


During the years that I have looked after this register, many Members have telephoned me or written (usually with SAE, thank you) asking for advice on various car problems. I am very happy to provide answers, and I usually ask that the member lets me know the eventual outcome. Some Members respond, which is appreciated. However, I am sorry to say that not all enquirers are fair about this. You ask for help. I give it. I ask for feedback, and there's no response. Please then, let's have a bit of "give" as well as "take". Remember, just as you have been able to benefit from accumulated experience, so some feedback from your problem may be of help to another member which, after 4 is one of the purposes of a motor club.

And now, after a few issues without one, here's TLC for the CVT, Tip No 13. Of the (only) two components in the CVT system that wear appreciably with use, namely the belts and the clutch plate, the life of the second one is affected quite considerably by the way it is used. Let me explain. When the car is standing and the engine is ticking over, the clutch is disengaged, so no clutch plate wear takes place, there being a gap between the rotating engine flywheel and the stationary clutch plate. When the car is running with the clutch fully engaged, again no wear occurs. Provided the engine is not revved up in "Park" (Tip No 3), and provided the accelerator is not used to hold the stationary car against running backwards down a slope (Tip No 4), clutch plate slip and wear only occur at take-up, that is when starting away from rest, although only a minute amount wears off each time. The actual amount of wear depends oil how much engine power is being applied during that short period. Heavy foot on the accelerator pedal equals more wear on the clutch plate. The best starting technique, there-fore, is for the initial throttle pedal movement to be gentle, just until the clutch has engaged and the car is moving, say for a second or so. After the clutch has fully engaged, you may "clog it" as hard as you like, but it won't cause clutch plate wear. Now there is one more factor. As the clutch plate wears away, the pre-engagement gap obviously becomes bigger, and the engine needs to run faster for the clutch to close. Higher speed at engagement causes more wear each time, so the gentle throttle technique becomes more beneficial with increasing mileage. The clutch is provided with spacing shims to enable the gap to be reset to compensate for wear. Checking the gap is (i.e. should be) a routine maintenance operation every 6000 miles. Changing the shims is to be done when the gap needs reducing again. A clutch kept correctly shimmed and used as suggested above should last well over 100,000 miles without any difficulty.


Another BKV has come and gone. As well as all the Volvo attractions on the ground, there was the lovely sight and sound of a Douglas DC3 flying overhead from time to time, In the arena for a first (?) there were three Volvo 66's: Peter Ceurstemont's green salon, Martin Humphrey's silver estate, and "Goldilocks", Pamela Pratt's gold saloon, making its third appearance. They all looked very handsome, shining in the sun, There were just enough cars for a separate sub-class. Pamela was first and Peter was second. Thank you all three for bringing your cars. I must confess that I had high hopes that more of you would have come this year. Incidentally, where were all the 340 CVT cars? If you like Volvos, the BKV is the place to be. On the technical front, one of the components on a 66 that suffers from road dirt is the outer track rod end. There are two track rods on each car, from the steering box to the respective suspension pivots. Each has a left hand threaded end and a right hand threaded end, to facilitate adjustment. It was standard practice for the LH threaded ends to be next to the steering box, where they are reasonably protected from corrosion. The thread direction can in fact be checked visually without touching anything (other than the bonnet!). So, if your car has track rod end trouble, you almost certainly need the RH threaded one, part No 3100 439-3, which comes complete with all accessory components except the large track rod nut. There is a knack in separating the track rod end from the car; it should not require brute force, but this is a subject for the DIY Newsletter.


For all owners of CVT cars, a reminder: February 1998 was the fortieth anniversary of when Hubertus van Doorne unveiled his brainchild "Variomatic" car to the motoring press. Variomatic has gone a long way since then. In fact it is still going very well. For over half of those forty years it has been under the Volvo logo. The first Variomatic Volvo was the 66, of which there are several in the Club. So, by way of a little celebration, how about a special turnout of Volvo 66's at the BKV? Though the 66 and 340 models are usually judged together, the Directors have agreed that IF there are at least THREE Volvo 66's competing, then separate trophies will be awarded in the 66 Class. So it's up to you, Barry, David, Kim, Malcolm, Pam, Pete, Vic (and those other members who haven't yet registered them, or whose first names I don't know). Please don't leave it to the others, Please do clean and polish your Volvo 66 GL and bring it to Stratford to make a 66 Grand Line-up, the longer the better.


The old adage "If you don't at first succeed, try, try, try again" even applies to the obtaining of parts for the older Volvos. Recently, when neither a Continental parts supplier nor a Volvo dealer was able to obtain a vital electrical part for a 66, I advised my enquirer first to try another Volvo dealer a little further from home. And, in this case, Messrs Dean Smith of Macclesfield were happy to obtain the required part for him. Another 66 kept in running order. For several years, interest in the 66 seemed to be gradually declining but, in the last year or so, there has been a resurgence of activity and enthusiasm for this model within the Club. Especially in an age when more and more cars are difficult to identify apart from their labels, the characterful profile of the Dutch 66 causes heads to turn it is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly oppressive mediocrity. The day when the 340 shape from the same stable is considered worth an extra glance cannot be far away either. With the reviving interest in the Volvo 66 has come an upsurge in technical enquiries. Sometimes I have to rack my memory for an answer doubtless a side effect of advancing age, but also due to the fact that I last owned one in December 1985 - in fact just before this quarterly column began in Driver No 62. So please bear with me if I can't remember instantly while on the phone exactly where the electromagnetic valve is located, or from which chassis number such and such a change was made. For that matter I cannot instantly recall every change made in the 340's, in spite of 12 years continuous use of them. In most cases I do have the needed information. Members can help me to help them better if they write out their questions or problem, send it by post, with membership number and SAE for my reply, and then I can give a properly considered answer. If you don't like writing letters, you can use a Technical Information Request form (of which there were copies in each Newsletter, No's 86-92), and you may send it direct to me instead of to Jack (I don't think he'll mind!).


The myth lives on! In the motoring section of the Daily Telegraph for Saturday 13th September there was a short article on "Cars that time forgot, the Daf Daffodil." In 1958, this had a 600 cc engine giving "a maximum of 60 mph." But the car was intended as a small-town runabout aimed at Audrey Hepburn-type gals who did not want anything more demanding. In truth, its appeal lay among pensioners and those too timid to master a manual gearbox. . ." Maybe that expert has never noticed how gauche a large proportion of the motoring public is in handling a gearbox: not just gals, not just pensioners, not just the timid. It is evident that motoring writers carry a major portion of the responsibility for customer reluctance to buy CVT cars. Anyway, he goes on to say "Daf off~loaded its car division to Volvo in 1973, and the hassle-free automatic" (thanks for those few kind words) "dream lives on today in the S/V40, made in the same Dutch factory." So now you know, but you wouldn't if you only read the article on the S/V40 beside it, because its writer was only interested in the T4 turbo option. You can guess what that article was like without reading it. Doubtless it pleased those readers who would like all speed limits removed. As (the probably now forgotten) Al Read would have said - "You've met'em." Back to earth again, here's a little tip for those drivers of automatics who are used to left-loot braking. An apparently necessary, but uncomfortable, feature of our road system is the recent generous distribution of humps, in housing areas, supermarket car parks and so on. No doubt the practice will increase. The rocking effect on the car can be significantly reduced by applying both gentle power and gentle brake pressure as you cross. By restraining both the front and the back wheels from rotating freely and independently, it has the effect of "stiffening" the whole suspension. Try it but only if you are well practised in left foot braking. At the same time, enjoy your WT motoring. You have something special that the others can't have.


To add to the pleasure of aviation at this year's BKV Rally, there were two Volvo 66 models, one in the concourse, the other in the members' car park - probably the first time 66's have been in "double figures" at a BKV. From time to time people phone to ask about selling a Volvo 66 - long MOT, "showroom condition", low mileage, etc - also just hoping that it might by now be worth a fortune. They don't always seem to realise that a car is worth nothing if nobody wants to buy it. However, there has recently been more interest from prospective buyers, and at least three V66's have changed hands. Please don't forget to register your CVT car (66 or 340).

TLC for the CVT, Tip No 12

In spite of motorways (or perhaps because of them?) we seem to get into "traffic crawls" now and again, even in the quieter parts of the country. When the speed gets really low, it will be found helpful and will reduce clutch wear to select "low ratio hold" rather than remain in ordinary "drive" mode. Leaving a space between yourself and the vehicle in front also helps to lessen the frequency of start/stop again beneficial to the clutch. When progress becomes continuous again and speed becomes more normal, don't forget to switch off the "low ratio hold."


This particular register is one of the smaller ones in the Club, though there are several cars not actually on the list. To those of you who have recently registered, welcome. If you need advice, do please ask. This column duly appears each quarter, though I have to guess shard) what Members might find interesting and helpful. The cars, especially the 340's,are generally pretty reliable (as cars go that is), so there is not a mountain of desperate problems needing solving - at least, not that 1 know of. However. if there is something you'd especially like to read about, please drop me a line and I'll try to oblige. During the period of the Register there has never been a special gathering of Members' CVT cars. The small numbers at the annual BKV Rallies indicate that the turnout would not justify a special CVT event -though Old Warden will be an excellent occasion to prove me wrong.

TLC for the CVT, Tip No 11

Continuing on from Tips 7 to 9, if the transmission does not seem to be changing up properly, but the electrical tests (7 and 8} and the EMV test (9) prove satisfactory, the next item to check is the vacuum system under the car. But there's no need to go underneath in the first instance ! There are two pipes from the EMV to the transmission unit. Mark which is which, and detach them from the valve. Twist before pulling. Next, take a deep breath and blow down each pipe in turn. It should be possible to blow a little air in, before the pipe goes "tight." On ceasing to blow, the air should come out again. Hold the pipe to the ear, the air can be heard escaping. If the pipe goes tight straight away ie no air goes in. it is undoubtedly blocked - maybe melted solid following welding of sills. If air can be blown in freely and continuously. a pipe is detached or broken somewhere. If air can be blown fairly freely and continuously down one pipe and back mat of the other and vice versa, there is a fairly bad leak between the two chambers inside the primary transmission unit. The cause is most likely to be a punctured diaphragm, which used to be common on early 66's but is rare on a 340. There are refinements, but these are basic tests to start you off. If you find a problem here and cannot solve it, please contact me. This service is for Club Members only, please.


Recently our member Robert Cartwright of Oswestry kindly sent me a copy of "Volvo in the news" for February 1977, being a compilation of reports from various newspapers around the country. The main theme was "Introducing the Volvo 343", but the ex-DAF 66 in its improved Volvo 66 guise also featured prominently. Both of course, had the CVT and notable safety features. Twenty years ago the comments on both cars and on their CVT were favourable: ". . . stepless transmission which is very smooth in operation. . ."; ". . . Volvo 66 Automatic is certainly the smoothest I have tried. The sensation is rather curious at first because the engine revs fall as speed increases and, if you are no speedo gazer and rely on engine noise to gauge speed, it is easy to (be) going a lot faster than you should": ". . . the CVT. . . always ensures that the car is correctly geared . . ." ". . . the engine can never be subjected to excess load or over-revved", "What a relaxing way to drive!" "It is the transmission of the Volvo 343 that puts it a cut above other cars in the same price bracket. The Variomatic system . . . making driving a real pleasure . . ." But those of us who own them know all this from long experience, don't we?

TLC for the CVT, Tip No 10

One of the little disadvantages of motoring is that the heels of drivers' shoes tend to become scuffed by bits of grit etc on the car floor, even more so if below the pedals there is a wear resistant rubber mat or pad. The theory seems to be to protect the car, never mind the driver's shoes! The simple antidote to this is a loose piece of soft carpet on which to rest one's heels, which can readily be removed for cleaning. However, there is a potential drawback - or draw forward - because, if this loose piece slides under the accelerator pedal, it can prevent full throttle being achieved. That should rarely be a problem in normal circumstances, but as it also prevents CVT "kick-down" being activated, it can be embarrassing when rapid change-down is required for acceleration. To prevent this problem arising, the loose carpet needs to be restrained from sliding forwards. Alternatively, if it is preferred fully loose, check its position each time the car is started. Finally if you get caught, remember that the "kick-down" effect can also be induced instantly by the use of the low ratio hold switch.


After many years a little "personal wish" has been fulfiller!. Not only to see a Volvo 66 in the BKV and among the prize winners but to find two centre spread colour pictures showing it (Autumn Driver). For good measure it was a gold saloon, just like mine was before I changed to 340s. Congratulations Pamela on your prizes at Newark, and at Rudding Park as well. Back to technicalities, John Taylor's experience, recounted on p24 of Autumn Driver, of a 343 CVT being jerky downhill deserves a comment. The condition he describes can occur it the car is allowed to free-wheel downhill before pressing the throttle pedal. It should not arise in normal use, even in hilly conditions. If it does raising the engine tick-over speed slightly ought to cure it. These cars will not self-destruct if properly set up.

TLC for the CVT, Tip No 9

If your car develops a problem with ratio selection, the first item to suspect is the solenoid valve or EMV (electro-pneumatic valve), in that it is not applying engine vacuum to the transmission when it should, or it is applying engine vacuum when it shouldn't. The simple electrical tests were explained in Tips 7 and 8. Next comes tile vacuum test There are two pipes from the valve to the back of the car. Label or mark which pipe is which and then disconnect them from the valve. Twist each rubber pipe to break its grip before sliding it off. Start the (preferably warm) engine. Keep it IN NEUTRAL. Place a finger over each of the open valve ports. There should be no suction pull on either. Now operate the low ratio hold button. There should be a very strong suction from the change-down port. Switch off the low ratio hold. Press the throttle pedal gently, When engine speed rises above 1800 rpm, there should be suction at the change-up port. If these events don't occur reliably, the EMV probably needs replacing, Before rushing to your dealer for a new valve, try a second hand one. For more details, turn back to page 26 of Driver No 92, Autumn 1993. If you don't have it, send me an S.A,E. plus a loose 10p stamp for a copy.


A pleasant day at Newark for the Club's annual gathering was enhanced by the presence of a Volvo 66 in the BKV line-up and a DAF 44 in use as a press car. It is always a Pleasure to renew acquaintance with the neat and balanced Michelotti styling - distinguished good looks in the words of a 1973 brochure - also to have a chat with the owners.

TLC for CVT, Tip No 8

Following on from No 7, the operation of the tachometric relay may now be tested (chassis No 348000 onwards). With the bonnet open, locate the solenoid valve. If you can't find it repeat the tests from No 7. The clicking will lead you to it. Then start the engine IN NEUTRAL. Raise the engine speed gently. As you pass 1800 r.p.m., rising or falling, you should be able to feel and hear the solenoid valve click. Another electrical test done, at no cost, and your hands should still be clean. More next time.


Among the phone calls asking for answers to technical problems or suggesting that I might perhaps want to buy a car, I had one recently from a member who rang just to tell me that he had bought a Volvo 400 series with the new CVT and that he was absolutely delighted with it. Obviously, I was very pleased to hear this. This CVT is of course assembled directly to the end of the east-west engine, inside a closed casing, so it is not possible to see the wonderful steel belt. But it is there all right; and, I have now been reliably informed, it is pretty potent with an 1800cc engine. In the meantime, back to basics with

TLC for CVT, Tip No 7

Over the CVT years there have been several modifications to the electrical circuits controlling the vacuum to the chambers of the drums, on the primary unit (see page 17 of I Driver No 102). On the 340 model from chassis no 348000, a tachometric relay was fitted, I connecting overdrive vacuum at engine speeds over 1800 rpm. Overdrive vacuum is disconnected and change-down vacuum is applied by using the low ratio hold button, or by applying the brakes more than lightly, or at throttle kick-down. Occasionally, with age or unreasonable dampness (eg car standing outdoors on grass unused for a long time), odd electrical connections corrode. The kick-down switch on the throttle cable is usually the worst trouble spot. There is a simple way to check it on all but the very earliest cars. With the car stationary, the engine not running and the ignition on, the low-ratio hold switch should show a green light when operated. If the throttle pedal is then pressed to the floor, the kickdown switch should operate and the green light should go out. On the very earliest cars, pressing the brake pedal hard should extinguish the green light. In all cars after 348000, it should be possible to hear the auxiliary relay in the tachometric unit (and the solenoid valve itself) click off and on as the three controls are operated in turn. By these simple procedures, the change-down electrical control circuit can be checked without even lifting the bonnet. Now what could be simpler, cleaner or cheaper than that? (Watch for more thrills in the next issue).


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